An 88-year-old woman was killed by an alligator in South Carolina on Monday, officials said, while living in a popular senior community.
The victim — identified by multiple outlets including The New York Times and USA Today as Nancy A. Becker — was discovered by a pond in Sun City Hilton Head, a gated community for adults 55 and older just north of Savannah, Georgia.
Officials from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the area around 11:15 a.m. local time, they said in a Facebook post, after they were called with reports that a person was in a 300-square-yard pond on the property with an alligator.
Emergency personnel located the deceased female on the scene, according to the sheriff's office. The alligator — a 9-foot, 8-inch male — was said to be standing guard beside her, Beaufort County sheriff's spokeswoman Maj. Angela Viens told NBC News.
"The alligator was basically holding her hostage, I guess," Viens said to the outlet. "I don't know what the appropriate term would be. It was guarding her and did not want people close by."
Authorities, according to the Times, believe Becker was gardening near the pond and may have slipped into the water before the attack.
Becker's body was eventually recovered, around 1 p.m that afternoon, the sheriff's office said in a release. Personnel with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) located and removed the alligator around 4 p.m., NBC News reported.
An investigation into the incident is being handled by the SCDNR and the Beaufort County Coroner's Office, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said. PEOPLE reached out to all three offices, as well as Sun City Hilton Head, but did not immediately hear back.
On Tuesday, an autopsy will be conducted at the South Medical University of South Carolina, WJCL-TV reported.
The attack is the second this year and the third in South Carolina since 2020. In May of that year, a Myrtle Beach man was killed when he was dragged into a retention pond.
According to The Post and Courier, Cynthia Covert, 58, was killed when she was dragged by an alligator into a pond at a home on Kiawah Island.
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Despite the horror and infrequency of the incident, Viens told the Times on Monday that they are not unheard of. "Alligator attacks are rare but not surprising," she said.